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News from PsiKeep – April 2015

“Through the green fuse drives the flower” into an uncertain spring.

japmapleleaf_cl

Sunlight through the Japanese maple leaves

 

suphorb

Cactus and succulents draped in protective cloth for the winter cold.

The shrouded cactus and succulents waiting for a winter which never came. The nursery cloth was removed  at solstice time even though we had a late cold spell in early April.

San Clemente Goat Kids

San Clemente doe and kids

San Clemente doe and kids

Kidding season has come and passed. PsiKeep  has 10 new San Clemente doelings and one buckling for sale. Kids are available now. Navigate to http://www.psikeep.com/ranch/sale.html for more information.

Dog and kids watching each other

Dog and kids watching each other

Getting Ready for the Fire Season

We finally got the broken tree removed from  the upper goat pen.

fallen branch  from blue pine

Fallen branch from blue pine in 2011

Some of the other trees were thinned this spring. Here the goats are feasting on the oak leaves.

Working so hard to get this post uploaded I forgot the last entry.

Garden below house

Garden below house

A section of the flower garden below the house which no one gets to see unless they are weeding the vegetable garden.

Now that I have shown all the beauty of spring at PsiKeep, the next post will detail some of the grunt work on putting the ranch and the art center together single-handed.

Best to all.

Comments are always welcome

Forest Coming Down; Grassland Choking

The raven fledglings left the nest on May 23, 2013.

In the next couple of days there was a lot of commotion up in the trees. The wind was up again and the little birds swung precariously from whatever branch they had caught in their first fumbled leap into the sky. High in the blue pines the fledglings were shuttering their wings, the act of vibrating their wings in a half folded position that most young birds  do when calling to their parents. They were also making a curious arrrling sound. It is almost like a growl but with “ar” sound.  In raven speech this seems to say “I’m up here. Looking for help. Got food! The parents were busy flying from bird to bird offering encouragement by demonstrating small leaps to the next tree and bringing the fledglings food soaked in water from the water troughs below.

Meanwhile I have problems of my own.
The forest has spoken again: “We are getting too big and changes are coming.”

tree_may23

The wind brought down large branch from the massive blue pine at the lower corner of the drive. The branch crashed into the upper goat pen but never broke free. It splintered at the trunk of the tree creating an arch to the ground. This was probably a good thing since the goats were in the pen when it came down. If it had broken free, it might have crushed any one of the animals. The branch filled most of the pen and I was so preoccupied with my own concerns that I did not see that the branch had fallen. (This happened  right outside my window where I was working  and you think I would have heard something.) Entering the goat pen to feed the goats I  did not notice that there was something wrong with this picture, until I set the food box down to open the gate.

So how am I going to clean up this broken tree?  

tree_arch02

The limb is hanging forty to fifty feet up in the air. At first I was pretty depressed at the magnitude of the toppled branch. Eventually it is going to come down and someone has to climb up the tree to cut it free.

But then I began to see this big “lemon” of a problem as my answer to a summer goat shelter. On one side the snags were driven into the ground bracing the broken limb. With some more bracing on the upper side and some trimming out of the snags hanging loose and a covering (plastic tarp at first then maybe cement when I have time)… Wow! I would have an armature for a structure that would provide protection from the wind and rain.  Later I could find someone to drop the rest of the wood from the tree…

Grassland Choking

meadow-jpg

I have posted several articles on the forest at PsiKeep but a third of the property is meadow land. The meadow at PsiKeep is a tangle of vegetation thrusting up through the dried stock of the previous year’s growth. Emerging out of this cycle of thrust and die is a triumphant player, star thistle.

starthistle

Over the years I have watched the star thistle slowly creeping up the slope. For the last few years I have found it growing in the orchard. This is a tough little plant worthy of some respect. Unchallenged it is growing everywhere. At the end of May what little green you see along the side of the road is star thistle, which has not yet dried out. Unfortunately a lot of people are choosing to use Roundup weed killer in a war against the thistle. This is not an option here and soon it will not be an option anywhere else. We have to find a use for this tenacious little plant because it is taking over. 

There have been some attempts to find a use for star thistle. I did purchase some thistle honey once and I found that it was quite tasty. Several crafts people are claiming to have made paper from the fiber. Unfortunately livestock, including goats, will not eat the mature plants.

I came across this interesting video which presents an entirely different approach to managing grasslands

The Eye of the Forest

Fire and Ice at PsiKeep

The fire season has started this year.
Winter played out early with nothing but dry dust and wind running across the tops of the blue pines, the edge of insipid storms arching north eastward without rain.

tree_front-view

The dead tree is down and cut up waiting to be split and hauled to the house for next winter. But another blue pine broke off about halfway up and crashed down on the back end of the outer goat pen. I do not know what to do with it. It is too late in the season to burn the snags and too far away from the drive to cut it up for the chipping crew I will probably buck it up a bit and wait out the summer.

tree_side-view

It is moments like this when I have to step back and remember what the forest is all about. It is an ocean twisting and thrusting toward the factory of the sun. Fierce competition rages in those quiet spaces. Driving upward to leaf with the ravens and crashing down to become the food of mushrooms.

I have been tending this forest for thirty some years. I have protected the saplings from the goats and cut away the deadfall and it is still a wild thing out of my control. Yet it has kept us warm through the winter and shaded us during the heat of summer. It has filled the air to breathe and whispered the familiar sound of home across the tree tops.

But more on this later…

A Tree Comes Down at PsiKeep

Back to the brutal present for a moment.

Last spring when Sammy was learning to fly I noticed that one of the large blue pines below the goat pen was dying. I could see that the needles were beginning to sag on that hundred foot tree. By early summer they wee turning brown.   It could have been a bark beetle infestation. I do not know otherwise why such a large healthy tree would suddenly die.

I was haunted all winter by that tree.  It was massive. And if it fell and blue pines fall all the time, it could wipe out my goats or even come down on the house. I knew I had to hire someone to take it down and burn the debris before the end of the summer. 

So this week during Easter break I was able to hire a a tree cutter to drop the tree. For two brutal and exhausting days we worked; Brian cutting and I burning  the remains of that tree.

The crude rough cut video below continues the story. 

Breaking Into the Wall of Forest

tangle of dead fall and poison oak

tangle of dead fall and poison oak

When I moved up to Psi Keep the underbrush was so thick I could not see down the driveway. Below the orchard is was so overgrown with dead-fall and poison oak it took me three days just to chainsaw my way through the gate.

image of forest overgrowth

view of forest overgrowth

That first summer I slowly worked my way through a wall of vegetation a hundred feet long, fifty feet thick and thirty feet high. Lucky for me I am not allergic to poison oak. If there was some commercial use for it I would have had a cash crop. As I cleared out the underbrush I freed the young saplings. I rolled up bundles of poison oak and hauled them up the hill to pen where I kept my two goats. They ate the poison oak as fast as I could haul it. We were a team the goats and I! All summer I hauled and all summer they ate and began making more goats.

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